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Thematic Learning: Nurturing Curiosity and Connection

Children walking through a forest

My vision for education has found its home at the heart of Bloom, a Montessori school surrounded by nature.

Here, we do things a little differently, embracing an approach that encourages independence and celebrates the uniqueness of each student's learning style. This approach, combined with thematic learning, has opened up an incredible world of exploration and discovery within my subject matter - biology.

Just as nature thrives in diversity, so do our students' learning preferences. Whether a child is a visual learner who finds solace in drawings; a tactile learner who thrives on models; or a kinesthetic learner who needs real-life experiences; I try to adapt my teaching methods to meet each of their needs. This tailored approach ensures that every student finds their path to understanding the wonders of biology.

As a Biology teacher, I’m blessed with the invaluable resources that are our school garden and surrounding forest. Students are provided with an important connection to the cycles of life through this living laboratory - witnessing the magic of germination; the interplay between pollinators and flowers; and the web of life firsthand.

Building bridges between subjects

The traditional boundaries between subjects blur here at Bloom, where we embrace the concept of thematic learning. Instead of compartmentalized subjects, we encourage students to explore topics holistically, diving deep into the intersections of various disciplines.

Lab experiments become windows into the microscopic world, illustrating the harmony between living beings and the chemical elements that compose them - this is where chemistry comes to life. With the support of the physics teacher, a microscope becomes more than just a tool. By understanding the way lenses and light work together, our students can dive into the microscopic world underlying physics principles.

Last year, the synergy between art, music, literature and biology unveiled a world of creative expression that brought life to our lessons. Working together with these subject teachers, we witnessed our students become rivers - gracefully moving through nature. By putting on a play and performing the song “I am the Earth”, the students not only internalized biological concepts but also experienced the interconnectedness of nature on a profound level.

Rivers Full of Stories

Last June, while I was planning for the coming school year, I decided to do a play related to Biology with students in grades five and six. In the meantime, a friend of mine published a children's book called "Rivers Full of Stories." Then the idea just came to me that I could use that book as inspiration and invite the authors to come to the play.

Students lined up after finishing a play.

Honestly, I didn't expect the children to be as enthusiastic as they were about working on the play. They were all excitedly thinking about what they would wear to represent each river! They truly immersed themselves in the role of these rivers, displaying a wholehearted commitment to the project. Their curiosity knew no bounds, and they learned a lot about river ecosystems as they asked in detail about rivers all the time - from our flora and fauna, to aspects of geography and history. I was delighted with the speed with which they learned these things. Through this immersive approach, it became evident that they were absorbing knowledge in a way that far surpassed any conventional teaching method.

Finding the connections

This year, the children proudly presented an exceptional project that unifies the essence of thematic learning. Our focus for September revolved around 'historical figures.' In the spirit of our ecological studies, we explored this theme through the history of ecological awareness, significant ecological milestones, and the remarkable individuals who championed nature's preservation.

The project they did was focused on the era of the 'Great Depression”. What does it have to do with ecology? This period was marked by an economic crisis, dwindling crop yields, adverse climatic conditions, and the depletion of ecosystem services—the bounties of nature that sustain us. In the face of agricultural limitations and widespread poverty, people resorted to resourceful cooking, using only select ingredients.

Inspired by this historical context, our students who really love cooking, decided to recreate a “ Depression cake” reminiscent of that era. I find it so wonderful that these students chose to intertwine the project theme of historical figures with biology/ecology and cooking in this way!

Every learning path is unique

Opportunities for new projects open up every day and students carry them out almost perfectly on their own, with teachers there to support them if they need it. In the words of Maria Montessori, "The greatest sign of success for a teacher... is to be able to say, 'The children are now working as if I did not exist.'" This quote really reveals the beauty of my job and calling. I look forward to my future work here and I really can't begin to imagine what these kids can achieve and make.

Our collaborative approach isn't just about subjects coming together; it is about all teachers coming together as a collective force, igniting curiosity, and cultivating a sense of wonder. This shared journey enriches our students' education and shapes them into adaptable, resourceful individuals equipped with the skills to thrive in a diverse and interconnected world.

Education is not a mere transfer of information. It is a journey of discovery, empowerment, and connection. As each student forges their own unique path, we are leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of education - one that celebrates the beauty of individuality and the harmony of knowledge.

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